Dead Innocent: The Death Penalty Abolitionist Search for a Wrongful Execution

34 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2007


This article examines the debate about whether or not an innocent person has been executed in the United States. The article begins by discussing several famous historical claims of wrongful execution, including Sacco & Vanzetti, the Rosenbergs, and Bruno Hauptmann. Then, the article addresses some recent claims of wrongful executions, including the case of Larry Griffin and the impact of a 2006 DNA test in the Roger Coleman case.

The article evaluates why some innocence claims attract more attention than others. By recognizing two obstacles in wrongful execution claims and by establishing five lessons for gaining media attention, the article uses its historical analysis to extract strategy lessons for death penalty abolitionists.

Finally, the article weighs arguments regarding the pros and cons of an abolitionist strategy that focuses on proving the innocence of executed individuals. The article concludes that wrongful execution claims provide an important argument for abolitionists, but such claims should not be presented as the main or only problem with the death penalty.

Keywords: death penalty, capital punishment, moratorium, abolition, civil rights, legal history, innocent, innocence, wrongful executions, executions

JEL Classification: K14, K10, K40

Suggested Citation

Kirchmeier, Jeffrey L., Dead Innocent: The Death Penalty Abolitionist Search for a Wrongful Execution. Tulsa Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 2, p. 43, 2006 , Available at SSRN:

Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier (Contact Author)

CUNY School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States

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